Water Cycle


Instructional kit
Perils of doing it yourself

You see them all the time in text books:

“Still life” diagrams of the water cycle.

As pretty as they look ….

The real trick is getting them to spin.

Easier said than done:

As multi-disciplinary as those diagrams appear (or proselytize) to be, they have a starchy and static and sort of abstract quality, as if they are stuck in time and their arrows stuck-in-place as if to say “yes, this is how the water cycle works, but don’t bother with the exact numbers or where all the water is now as we speak because it’s too complicated to know.” The truth is: Weather people tend to stick to the sky, and the water suppliers focus on what’s coming out of the ground, and home owners on their sprinkler heads, and gate keepers on their individual gates.

But what if we could unite the water cycle, each gear great and small …

And watch them them spin around in real time?

Water is all around us, and constantly in motion

Trust me,

It’s harder than it looks.

One wrong turn and all the water runs out.

conversations with water

Conversations with water
Getting to the bottom of things

Me: “Hey water, what’s going on?”

Water: no response

Water’s a hell of a listener

Me: “I know how you feel. Man, it’s been one of those days for me, too. What can you do but shake your head and try to forget about it?”

Water: no response

Me: “Remember that time when it was just me and you out there, under the sun and sky and then the night came and it was the stars instead, everything just quiet and peaceful like we didn’t have a care in the world?”

Water: no response

Just a good conversationalist in general

Me: “Yeah, they were good times, alright. Good times.”

Water: no response

Me: “Lots of good times ahead, too. You’ve got to believe that.  You’ve got to.”

Water: no response

Me: “Thanks for being there … and listening. I definitely feel a lot better.”

Water: No response

hydrologic holidays

Florida Groundhog Day
Does the groundhog's shadow portend early fall?

South Florida doesn’t have a winter, therefore by definition it can’t have a Groundhog Day?

Or is it just hiding in plain sight instead?

Groundhog and cloud
Is that a cloud,
or a Giant Groundhog?

Groundhog Day on the continent is a celebration that celestial winter is half way done. By contrast in south Florida we are content to never let winter never end.

Our summer on the other hand is another story.

What continental transplant (me included) hasn’t at some point during Florida’s unending summer craved a little dose of fall air, especially come Labor Day when friends and relatives from “up state” and “off peninsula” are just beginning to rejoice in the first of many rounds of crisp autumnal air. Meanwhile down on the south peninsula we are left to sweat out another six weeks of Old Man Summer. It usually isn’t until Mid October that finally (and at long last) a cold front blasts through.

In my mind that’s what makes Labor Day South Florida’s Groundhog Day equivalent.

Will Summer end soon? Answer: See above

Only south Florida’s groundhog doesn’t emerge from ground to look for his shadow: It appears as giant cloud (see photo above) …

Casting a shadow on us instead.

Mid-summer milestone
Why pond apples never fall far from the tree

Hearing the ker-plunk of a pond apple …

Into the center of a dome is a rite of passage in the swamp.

Holding a pond apple in Big Cypress National Preserve
Pond apples are found in the center of cypress domes

It also indicates two things:

Summer is advancing (thus it falling) and water is deep (thus the ker-plunk).

And how do you measure the worth of a pond apple?

Floating pond apple in the center of a cypress dome
As seen looking towards the dome’s lighted center

What happens next after the ker-plunk?

The pond apple floats!

And starts to drift.

In the direction of sheet flow (until a log snags on a log).

Pond apples rarely drift far from the tree they fell.

birds eye view

Cloud welcoming party
And why we love rain in the swamp

Rainy days often get a bum rap …

For ruining plans or otherwise sidetracking events.

Destination “gap between the clouds”
Getting closer
Inside the gap!
Exiting to the other side

Not in the swamp! Alligators, cypress, periphyton, peat, fish, wading birds (the list goes on) couldn’t be more thrilled. At least, that’s why I saw that alligator smiling.

big weather

Heart of the storm season?
By some metrics it still hasn't begun

Hurricane season is two months old …

But it isn’t until August the heart of the season really begins.

Chart showing monthly
distribution of hurricanes that
made landfall in Florida

Over 75 percent of the storms that make landfall in Florida at hurricane strength occur in the three month span of August, September and October.

September leads the way with over 40 percent.

weekly wave banner

“Raining Cats and Dogs?”
Why it's time to retire the saying

When big downpours let loose …

It’s often said “it’s raining cats and dogs.”

Can you see the ___________ (correct answer)?

But that adage dates back to aegis of the industrial revolution in Europe when literally, after large rainfall events, stray cats and dogs ended up dead in the gutter.

Or at least that’s one explanation.

My proposal:

Why rake up old graves? Let’s let those poor strays rest in peace and replace that sad saying with an animal event that more accurately (and humanely) describes south Florida’s major weather events.

A downpour as seen through a windshield

In quiz format, here’s my proposal:

Can you guess what major animal event best describes the rain storms in south Florida? (a) school of fish, (b) swarm of gnats, (c) stampede of horses, (d) 37-year cicada hatch, or (e) a super colony of wading birds?

Answer: https://www.gohydrology.org

Also check out recent rainfall numbers in The Water Room

Blog: https://www.gohydrology.org/water-room

P.S. Please share with a friend!

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flood and fire

All droughts end in floods
We just didn't expect it inside

There’s an old hydrology axiom …

That all droughts end in flood.

The podcast explains more

And more than often it holds up,

Although most recently in the swamp with a twist.

Flooded hallway from a strong afternoon storm

The flooding occurred inside the building, a place you’d usually expect to stay dry. The reason? It was a powerful storm cell, and it blew in at an angle into an outdoor hallway that had new door thresholds that slightly pooled the water up.

Meanwhile, the day before, a lightning strikes from a similar cloud caused a few new wildfire starts.

Panorama of the flooded corridor

Moral of the story:

Flood and drought aren’t as diametrically opposed as might first appear. They can actually co-exist on the same day.